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Constitutionality of war discussed at panel

By Victoria EspinozaSTAFF WRITER

In recognition of the United States’ 227th Constitution Day last Wednesday, a panel of Hofstra law professors discussed the relevance of the War Powers Resolution and the US Constitution in relation to present-day U.S. military involvement in Iraq and Syria.

Professors Leon Friedman, Eric Freedman and Julian Ku spoke on the roles of the president and Congress when declaring war as experts on constitutional law.

Professor Friedman was a part of the campaign that originally drafted the War Powers Resolution. He opened the panel discussing the resolution and the Korean War, the first major war that the U.S. did not authorize through Congress.

“A page of history is worth 1,000 pages of logic,” said Friedman.

The Vietnam War followed in the same fashion, however Congress did pass the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution, which gave President Johnson authorization to use military force in Southeast Asia, without a need for a formal declaration of war from Congress.

Starting in 1970, Friedman began bringing lawsuits to court saying that Congress never voted, making the Vietnam War unconstitutional. This meant things like the draft instated at the time were unconstitutional as well. Unfortunately he had no luck with the courts, as they did not want to be involved and did not feel they had the military knowledge to judge the cases.

The first real time it became clear that Congress was no longer in the business of war was when they passed a law saying no money would be used to pay for combat in Cambodia. President Nixon quickly vetoed this bill, showing that the president had a much stronger hand than before in military and combative decisions.

After this incident, Congress sponsored the War Powers Resolution, which was meant to be a compromise between Congress and the president. Even though it was vetoed by Nixon, it passed, and drew up new rules like stating that the president has to consult with Congress before introducing troops into hostility, giving him time limits on how long he could troops overseas before Congress votes, and more.    

“I think that it makes sense for Congress to have more of the power on a major decision like his, so the War Powers Resolution makes sense to me also,” said junior marketing major Jordan Richmond.

Professor Eric Freedman discussed the recent motion by the House of Representatives to pass funding to train moderate resistance in Syria. He said this could potentially lead to the debate of whether or not Congress just gave the President a blank check, and to what consequences that could lead.

According to Freedman, a similar decision-making model for the matter has been passed down from president to president.

“This guy did A so now I can do B, and if this guy did B then now I can do C and so forth,” said Freedman.

Freedman also focused on how many recent presidents including Clinton and Bush Junior and Senior had not stayed as strict to the War Powers Resolution as he believed they could have.

Professor Ku seemed to have a much different take on the War Powers Resolution, and how American presidents are currently interpreting it.

“There is a lot of confusion as to where the line is,” said Ku.

However, he doesn’t believe that the president is overstepping his boundaries, because he thinks it’s unclear who has more power.

In recent times, as the country’s influence in other nations has expanded, the president gets more power as Commander-in-Chief, and Ku thinks there is nothing wrong with that.

Ku also finds flaw in the War Powers Resolution’s close resemblance to tactical management and almost micromanaging. It creates time limits within which the president must deploy and remove  troops. President Obama is currently facing this, as Oct. 7 marks 90 days since troops were sent into Iraq in August.

To close the discussion, the panel surveyed the audience as to whether the president or Congress should have the final say when declaring war. The majority of the audience was still on the fence.

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